Rasnov Fortress: Medieval Battles and Sieges in Transylvania
A key defensive landmark on the commercial road that linked Transylvania to the historical province of Southern Romania, the Balkan Peninsula and Central Europe, Rasnov Fortress has its share of sieges, heroic fights and medieval confrontations. One of the most visited medieval attractions in the country, the fortress impresses through its centuries-old history and dramatic ruins. Plus, its proximity to Brasov, Bran Castle and Peles Castle make it a favorite destination for one-day trips that start from Bucharest or Brasov.
The defensive purpose of the fortress is easily visible even today. Located on a rocky hill from Rasnov, Rosenau in German, surrounded by forests that were once hard to cross, the fortress saved more than once the lives of local people. First mentioned in 1335 as surviving the Tatar invasion that destroyed the area of Brasov, the fortress was originally built on the ruins of an ancient site by the Teutonic Knights between 1211 and 1225. The fortress was later enlarged and fortified by the local Saxon community who owned it until the mid-18th century.
The construction of the fortress was done in several stages, its materials and defensive architecture evolving along with the discoveries of the time, a key one being the use of cannons and artillery weapons. The modernization of military techniques meant also the partial destruction of the Lower Part of the fortress that could no longer be protected without increasing the vulnerability of the entire outpost. This was obvious in 1612 when Gabriel Bathory conquered the fortress that was recovered by the Saxon community only after paying a consistent ransom.
The best-conserved part of Rasnov Fortress is its Upper Part, better protected by the rocky landscape and strengthened in the 16th and 17th centuries with more modern military constructions adapted to artillery fights, including towers, shooting platforms and increased fortification of the walls. The fortress was last attacked in 1690 by the Ottoman armies, but even in time of peace, the monument suffered the damages of a major fire in 1718 and an earthquake in 1802 that destroyed some of its towers. By the end of the 19th century, the fortress had lost all military importance, becoming more of a local attraction.
The medieval burg
The prolonged and often attacks determined the locals to build a small burg inside the walls of the fortress, with neighborhoods, streets and even a central market. In total, 80 houses were discovered by the archaeologists. The architecture of the houses was typical for the time, each having a ground floor used for daily working activities and a second level used for housing. The small city inside the fortress was abandoned at the beginning of the 18th century when the southern Carpathian border was secured under the domination of the Habsburg Empire.
Rasnov Fortress today
The fortress of Rasnov is one of the largest and most remarkable medieval monuments in Transylvania, a solid example of defensive constructions used to survive in a time when Ottoman and Tatar attacks destroyed entire cities and villages. Only partly conserved, but with enough testimonies to make a rich imagination recreate the past glory, the fortress is one of the best historical attractions around Brasov.
While in Rasnov, visit also Valea Cetatii Cave, just a few kilometers from the fortress, the 14th century Saint Nicolae Church and the Evangelical Church.
Combine a visit to the fortress with a morning visit to the Bears’ Sanctuary from Zarnesti.
You can take a one day hike from Rasnov to Omu Peak in Bucegi Mountains.